Ps. 133: The Promise of "Beloved Community"

Rabbi Michael Rose Knopf is spiritual leader of Temple Beth-El in Richmond, Virginia, a founding member of the Standing Together Steering Committee of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, and a board member of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. He is the author of Thirty Days of Liberation: Pathways for Personal and Social Transformation Inspired by the Book of Exodus, and co-host of Pop Torah, a podcast on the JCast Network.

Corey D. B. Walker is the Wake Forest Professor of the Humanities at Wake Forest University. An ordained American Baptist clergyperson, he has held faculty and academic leadership positions at Brown University, University of Virginia, Virginia Union University, and Winston-Salem State University and visiting faculty appointments at Friedrich-Schiller Universität Jena, Union Presbyterian Seminary, and University of Richmond. He was also a non-resident fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

 

The signs are ubiquitous. Liberty trail. Slave trail. Museum of the Confederacy. Virginia Holocaust Museum. Gilpin Court. Ginter Park. The contradictions of community are the substance of everyday life in our city.

Psalm 133 extolling “how good and pleasant” it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together takes on a special resonance for us in Richmond, Virginia. Virginia is famous as the birthplace of America’s founders. Richmond, our city and our commonwealth’s capital, is home to two cathedrals to the purported American ideals of liberty and equality: St. John’s Episcopal church, where Patrick Henry famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death!” and the Virginia Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson, who famously proclaimed that “all men are created equal.”

And yet Virginia is also ground zero for American racial oppression, serving as the landing spot for the first enslaved Africans in British North America in 1619. Richmond was home to the second-largest slave market in the nation, situated in the valley between St. John’s Church and Jefferson’s capitol. Richmond is also famous as the former capital of the Confederacy.

This dissonance speaks both to the American dream of “a more perfect union” and to the tragic reality that unity, even imperfect unity, has been arrested and truncated throughout our history. It would indeed be “good and pleasant” for all to dwell in this place in unity. Yet, entering the second decade of the twenty-first century, the “good oil” of human community remains elusive in Richmond, in Virginia, and indeed throughout the nation.

Home to the necropolis of the Confederacy, Richmond is haunted by the spirit of a mythic “Lost Cause.” This spirit strains our ability to be refreshed by the dew of life together. Instead, Richmond is, 65 years after Brown v. Board, more segregated than ever. The map of our life apart correlates perfectly with inequities in income, wealth, education, healthcare, environmental quality, and life expectancy. As a matter of fact, as of today, almost all of the Richmond city residents who have died from COVID-19 are black.

Yet, the testimony of the uprisings over the past weeks in Richmond and across the nation and world reveal an insatiable desire for the creation of a place that is “good and pleasant” for all brothers and sisters to dwell together. Indeed, if it is “good and pleasant” for brothers and sisters to dwell together, then it is bad and abhorrent when they do not. Here, the psalmist offers a keen insight: when brothers and sisters decide to create a “beloved community”—to borrow and underscore the capacious vision of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—the result is “life.” The abundance of life—like the oil that ran down Aaron’s “beard and on the collar of his robe”—attests to the beauty and bounty of brothers and sisters coming together through unity, through love, and through justice.

In Richmond, in Virginia, in the United States, and all across the world, we must learn that the path of life is in our living together. By dismantling systems designed to keep us apart and building up new ones in their place to foster beloved community, we understand anew the closing lines of the psalmist, “There the Infinite gives blessing, life that never ends.”

 

Read more about PsalmSeason here and subscribe for email updates.

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

Members of Black communities across the U.S. have disproportionately fallen sick or died from the virus, so some church leaders are using their influence and trusted reputations to fight back by preaching from the pulpit.
Dr. Eboo Patel, Founder, and President of IFYC offered this comment as we remember Juneteenth this year: “Slavery and racism are amongst America’s original sins. Juneteenth marks an important step towards redemption, and so we observe it as a sacred day of remembrance and reflection.” 
Truly, how long must we wait till we achieve our full and complete freedom? And when I say “freedom” I do not mean the theoretical kind, or the type where million-dollar corporations drape their logos with the colors of the rainbow to express a monetary tolerance.
On Thursday, June 10, 2021, Krista Tippett and Eboo Patel discussed the value of courageous pluralism and deep listening at a pivotal moment of our nation's collective formation. How can we equip young people to best address the needs of our time and beyond—truly cultivating the understanding that we belong to one another?
Interfaith coalitions have long taken up racial justice causes, most famously in the civil rights movements of the '60s, Yet, interfaith organizations themselves have often not taken racial equity work seriously.
The conversation among participants focused on past, present and future possibilities of interfaith collaboration at HBCUs and among Black and African American students on other college campuses.
These women are influencing so many in their community by being beacons of the values they hold dear, and that is an incredible way to guide a community. 
While pursuing a master’s degree in Buddhist studies, Han decided to focus her thesis on documenting the nuances of Asian American Buddhists, a community that seemed almost nonexistent, she wrote.
He sees potential for future science-informed partnerships between the government and faith communities to tackle the pandemic.
What has happened in our institution provides a template for similar institutions who may be going through some challenges in establishing an interfaith program. It shows that being true to one’s faith and being inclusive are not opposites.
I hear my sisters and brothers calling out in cacophony, “Aint I a Human?” When Sojourner Truth considered the ways in which white women were revered and protected; when she witnessed the ways their gentility and femininity were affirmed and nurtured; when she experienced the contrast in how she was treated relative to those who shared her gender but not her color, she was compelled to ask, “Aint I a Woman?”
The following interview features Imam Makram El-Amin, who has led the Masjid An-Nur (Mosque of Light) in Minneapolis for 25 years and serves as executive director of Al-Maa’uun, the mosque’s community outreach organization.
The following interview features Anthony Cruz Pantojas, co-chair of the Latinx Humanist Alliance, an affiliate of the American Humanist Association.
The following interview features Micah Fries, director of programs at the Multi-Faith Neighbors Network and director of engagement at GlocalNet.
The church first started offering vaccine doses in January in an effort to boost the vaccination rates in New York City’s Black and Hispanic communities.
This article is part of a series called Faith in the Field that explores responses to Covid-19—including vaccination efforts—within different faith communities. 
Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, talks about the Catholic response to the pandemic.
Fred Davie joins Alia Bilal, Anthea Butler, Adam Russell Taylor and Eric Lewis Williams in a conversation that gets to the heart of how interfaith cooperation can be a part of accountability, justice, and reconciliation in America’s next chapter.
Two thousand volunteers of diverse faiths will engage people through their religious communities.
"Over the years, people have asked if I was 'called' to be a rabbi, and the truth is I don't know, but what I do know is I did listen to an inner voice which I now believe was a holy voice. That holy voice led me to listen even when I doubted..."
The USS Olympia is home to the Difficult Journey Home exhibit that opens May 28, and a historical marker will be unveiled during the Museum’s Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, May 31. Independence Seaport Museum

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.